Activities for Teaching Gerunds & Infinitives (ESL)

Language Focus: Verbs followed by gerunds and/or infinitives

English Level: Intermediate, upper-Intermediate


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Some things in English just need to be memorized. Among these things are which verbs (and adjectives and adverbs) should be followed by a gerund, which by an infinitive, and which  by a both. Giving your students a list of verbs that match each category can be useful, but some students learn best through story. And the more interesting the story is, the more likely they are to remember it.

Below are some short stories I have written with common verb + infinitive / verb + gerund collocations. Choose one that suits your level and give it a shot with your students.

Teaching gerunds and infinitives in ESL class

My Teaching Method for Teaching Gerunds & Infinitives with a Story

I use a story (see samples below) as a springboard into my lesson. This is how I begin.

  1. Read the story aloud to the class. Then read it again.
  2. Briefly explain that in English, often verbs are followed by another action. In these cases, we have to choose to use either an infinitive or a gerund. Give them the example of “I want to go vs. I enjoy going”
  3. On the white/chalkboard, write “Verb + infinitive” on the left side, and “Verb + Gerund” on the right.
  4. Reread your story for a third time. This time, pause after each verb, and let the students elicit the verb that follows (in infinitive or gerund form) from the story. You’ll be surprised that many will remember it (especially if the story is interesting).
  5. As you elicit the verb forms, write the main verbs on the board in either the verb + infinitive or verb + gerund column.
  6. When finished, tell your students to try to retell the story to a partner from their memory. They should be able to look at the verbs on the board for cues about the story (and because the list is chronological, they’ll be able to start from the top and work their way through it). Tell them to do their best; it doesn’t have to be perfect.

Afterwards, if I’m teaching a 1.5 hour lesson, I usually begin my more formal lesson with a controlled worksheet, and then a semi-controlled speaking activity (e.g. discussions questions (there are some below)). As a productive activity, I typically do this activity with verbs followed by gerunds and infinitives. (Note: it requires having some pictures cut up, but it could be done without pictures).

  1. At the end of class, I give my students the story I had read them at the beginning with blanks in it (see ‘cloze paragraphs’ below).  This is a great way to bring the lesson full circle, and they usually do a good job at remembering the collocations.

Story #1: Verb + Gerund or Infinitive? (+ Cloze Paragraph)

My friend Bernardo liked to eat McDonald’s hamburgers. But he had a problem. He was gaining weight. He decided to go on a diet. He stopped eating fast food and started buying more fruit and vegetables. After a month, he had lost a few pounds. But he wanted to lose more. I suggested joining a gym. Bernardo disliked exercising, but he agreed to try it. Now he exercises every day and he looks better. He’s looking forward to losing more weight.


My friend Bernardo liked _________________  (eat) McDonald’s hamburgers. But he had a problem. He was gaining weight.. He decided _________________ (go) on a diet. He stopped _________________ (eat) fast food and started _________________  (buy) more fruit and vegetables.  After a month, he had lost a few pounds. But he wanted _________________  (lose) more. I suggested _________________ (join) a gym. Bernardo disliked _________________ (exercise), but he agreed _________________  (try) it. Now he exercises every day and he looks better. He’s looking forward _________________  (lose) more weight.

 

Story #2: Verb + Gerund or Infinitive? (+ Cloze Paragraph)

Teresa’s boyfriend Bernardo is gaining weight. She wanted him to quit eating fast food.  He agreed to start eating healthily.A few weeks passed. Teresa expected Bernardo to lose weight, but nothing changed. She noticed that sometimes he would smell like hamburgers. She started to suspect that he had broken his promise to eat well.

One day, she followed him home from work. She saw him pass by McDonalds, but then he stopped walking. He hesitated to go in, but he finally did. After a few minutes, she decided to follow him in. She caught him eating a Big Mac. She attempted to wrestle it from him, but she couldn’t manage to get it out of his greasy hands. He tried to push her away, but he accidentally hit her in the face. Naturally, she got angry. He said that he didn’t mean to hit her, but she started screaming. They both got kicked out of the restaurant. Now they refuse to speak to each other.


Teresa’s boyfriend Bernardo is gaining weight. She wanted him __________ _________ fast food.  He agreed _________  _________ healthily.

A few weeks passed. Teresa expected Bernardo _________ weight, but nothing changed. She noticed that sometimes he would smell like hamburgers. She started _________ that he had broken his promise _________ well.

One day, she followed him home from work. She saw him pass by McDonalds, but then he stopped _________. He hesitated _________ in, but he finally did. After a few minutes, she decided _________ him in. She caught him _________ a Big Mac. She attempted _________ it from him, but she couldn’t manage _________ it out of his greasy hands. He tried _________ her away, but he accidentally hit her in the face. Naturally, she got angry. He said that he didn’t mean _________ her, but she started _________. They both got kicked out of the restaurant. Now they refuse _________ to each other.

Story #3: Verb + Gerund or Infinitive? (+ Cloze Paragraph)

One month ago, my friend Bernardo decided to lose some weight. He stopped eating chocolate, gave up drinking beer, and he refused to eat anything high in fat. This was difficult for him because he enjoyed eating chocolate and he preferred to drink/drinking beer to Diet Coke! Luckily, his girlfriend agreed to help him. She promised to make him a lot of healthy food, and she did. But after two months, he only managed to lose 3 pounds. Now, his girlfriend has suggested joining a gym. Bernardo hates exercising, but he will try it.


One month ago, my friend Bernardo decided _________________ (lose) some weight. He stopped _________________ (eat) chocolate, gave up _________________ (drink) beer, and he refused _________________ (eat) anything high in fat. This was difficult for him because he enjoyed _________________ (eat) chocolate and he preferred _________________  (drink) beer to Diet Coke! Luckily, his girlfriend agreed _________________ (help) him. She promised _________________ (make) him a lot of healthy food, and she did. But after two months, he only managed _________________ (lose) 3 pounds. Now, his girlfriend has suggested _________________ (join) a gym. Bernardo hates _________________ (exercise), but he will try it.

 

Story #4: Differences in Meaning Between Verbs followed by Gerunds or Infinitives

Verb Focus: love, start/stop, remember, forget, try

Bernardo loves traveling. He began traveling when he was a young child. He remembers visiting new places every Christmas and summer holiday. In particular, he’ll never forget visiting Hawaii in 2010. On the day he and his family were going to depart, there was a big snowstorm. His father tried to get them to the airport, but the roads were icy. The car kept sliding. In the airport parking lot, his father actually hit another car. He tried to stop, but he couldn’t. Finally, when they got inside the airport, Bernardo realized that he had forgotten to pack clothes. He remembered to bring his passport at least. So after arriving in Honolulu, his family had to stop to buy some clothes for him.  In the end, he had a great trip. He hopes that he never stops traveling.


Bernardo loves _____________. He began _____________ when he was a young child. He remembers _____________ new places every Christmas and summer holiday. In particular, he’ll never forget _____________ Hawaii in 2010. On the day he and his family were going to depart, there was a big snowstorm. His father tried _____________ them to the airport, but the roads were icy. The car kept _____________. In the airport parking lot, his father actually hit another car. He tried _____________ but he couldn’t.  Finally, when they got inside the airport, Bernardo realized that he had forgotten _____________ clothes. He remembered _____________ his passport at least. So after arriving in Honolulu, his family had to stop _____________ some clothes for him.  In the end, he had a great trip. He hopes that he never stops _____________.

Bonus: Warm-up Questions – Gerunds and Infinitives

(Note to teachers: Delete the questions that you haven’t studied if you feel it will confuse your students)

Student A

  1. What habit do you have that you’d like to stop _________________ (do) ?
  2. Have you started _________________ (do) anything new recently?
  3. What is something new that you’d like to try _________________ (do) in the next few years?
  4. Have you decided _________________ (do) anything special this weekend?
  5. What are you looking forward to _________________ (do) after lass?
Answers
1.doing, 2. doing/to do 3. doing/to do 4. to do 5. doing

Student B

  1. Are you going to stop _________________ (do) something on the way home today?
  2. Have you regretted _________________ (do) anything recently?
  3. What in life do you prefer_________________(do) to sleeping?
  4. What are the most common tasks that people forget _________________ (do)?
  5. Do you remember _________________ (be) born? What was your first memory?
  6. Are you used to _________________ (study) English in this class?
Answers
1.to do, 2. doing 3. doing 4. to do 5.being. 6. studying

Bonus Questions: Gerunds and Infinitives

With a partner, look at the questions below (together). Put them in the correct form (gerund of infinitive) and then ask each other the questions.

  1. What/you/look forward to/do/this weekend?
  2. What/you/regret/do?
  3. What/miss/eating/from/your/home country?
  4. What/you/detest/see?
  5. What/you/can’t wait/do?
  6. What/you/would/like/avoid/do/this weekend?

Clarifying Questions with Reported Speech and Gerunds & Infinivites

Activity Worksheet Download: clarifying-questions-gerunds-infinitives.docx

This activity combines a review of reported speech (i.e. shifting verb tenses back when the reporting verb is in the past tense) and gerunds and infinitivesIf you haven’t taught reported speech, then you can still use the pair-work questions on the sheet (just delete the top paragraph about reported speech).

This activity combines grammar with speaking and listening practice. To conduct it in full, first explain to your students that they will be asking each other questions that contain verbs followed by gerunds and infinitives. However, some of the questions have errors. Their job is to listen to the question and indicate if it’s correct or incorrect. If it’s correct, they can just answer the question. If there’s an error, they can clarify the question (Sorry, did you ask me…?) and then answer it.

Put your students in pairs, and let them give it a try. Naturally, as the teacher, you’ll want to preview the questions to make sure they are familiar with the verbs. Note that it also has a few questions with adjectives/adverbs.

The worksheet can be previewed below in its entirely. You can download it above.

Clarifying Questions – Gerunds and Infinitives Version

Your partner will ask you a question. If the question has an error, clarify it using one of the strategies below combined with reported speech (i.e. move the verb tense back). If the question is error-free, then just answer the question.

Example.        A: Do you enjoy to go to concerts?

B: I’m sorry. Did you ask me if I enjoyed going to concerts?

A: Yes.

B: Oh. Yes… I saw Justin Bieber last year and…

 

—— (fold or cut paper here) —————-

Student A

  1. What is something that you have recently avoided to do? (wrong – avoid doing)
  2. What didn’t your parents allow you to do? (correct)
  3. Is your hometown worth to visit? (wrong – worth visiting)
  4. Would you agree to pay more taxes if it meant that university education would be free? (correct)
  5. What chore do you detest to do the most? (wrong – detest doing)
  6. When is someone old enough to get married? (correct)
  7. What age is too soon having children? (wrong – to have)

 

————- (fold paper here) –———————————-

Student B

  1. Did you accidentally forget doing anything on the weekend? (wrong – to do)
  2. What do you like to do at the end of the day when you finish working? (correct)
  3. When do you expect getting a job? (wrong – to get)
  4. What are you looking forward to doing tonight? (correct)
  5. Are you interested to go to a ballet performance? (wrong – in going)
  6. If you saw an accident at the side of the road, would you keep to drive? (wrong – keep on driving)
  7. What is something you miss doing? (correct)

 

Hopefully these activities will give you some firepower for your English lessons.

All the best.

Matthew Barton / Creator of Englishcurrent.com

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8 comments on “Activities for Teaching Gerunds & Infinitives (ESL)

  1. Phuc Ngo ( Prudence Ngo) (Posted on 2-21-2017 at 06:06) Reply

    Thank you so much! Such a creative idea you have on teaching this tough and theoretical lesson!

    Wish you best luck and good health !!

    Best,

    Phuc

  2. Anonymous (Posted on 3-5-2017 at 06:34) Reply

    Yes, this is very helpful. Grammar can be very “dry” but partner activities liven things up a bit.

    Thanks!

    Teran Armstrong, Ph.D.

  3. randamahmoud301@yahoo.com (Posted on 3-23-2017 at 15:32) Reply

    great ,simple and effective way of teaching

  4. Robyn (Posted on 5-3-2017 at 00:14) Reply

    Thank you so much for an interesting and useful lesson. And thank you very much for sharing it!

  5. Irina (Posted on 5-25-2017 at 10:17) Reply

    Very helpful lesson plan and activities! Thank you very much for putting it together!

  6. Carlos (Posted on 7-7-2017 at 22:38) Reply

    Wow this helped me a lot with my homework thank you so much.

  7. pandu (Posted on 7-11-2017 at 08:16) Reply

    tnq very much for the stories
    they helped me very much

  8. Maryam (Posted on 9-3-2017 at 03:51) Reply

    Thank you so much. It was so helpful and more practical.

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